Thanaka Powder (also spelled as Thanakha Powder) is a cosmetic herbal preparation having yellowish-white color. The ground bark of Hesperethusa Crenulata is commonly used for the preparation of Thanaka paste. It is used primarily for the cosmetic purpose and has been an integral part of the culture of Myanmar. It is usually applied to the face and on the arms for increasing glow and improving complexion as White Sandalwood Powder (Safed Chandan Churna) is applied to the skin in the form of face pack in Ayurveda for the similar benefits. Now, it also becomes famous for hair removal and used along with Kusumba Oil for this purpose.
Thanaka Powder Preparation
Thanaka powder is prepared by grinding the wood, bark, or roots of the Thanaka tree using very small amount water. A circular slate slab known as KYAUKPYIN is used for making the powder. The slab has a channel around its rim so that the water can drain into it.
However, the wood of several trees can be used to produce Thanaka powder, but the ground bark of Hesperethusa Crenulata is the most preferred option. This tree grows abundantly in the central Myanmar. It is a spinous and small tree. It has spines, which are about 12 to 25 mm long. Thanaka trees are perennials.
Native Range (Geographic Distribution)
Thanaka tree or Hesperethusa Crenulata is a common tree in the Southeast Asia. It is also indigenous to the Republic of Myanmar as well as India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Java. The common names for Thanaka are elephant-apple, wood-apple, curd fruit tree and monkey fruit. The plant has a number of other names including Bal in Assamese, Thanaka in Burmese and Belingai in Malaysia.
It grows widely in a range from the West Pakistan to the Southwestern China, Burma, and Indo-China regions. In West India and Pakistan, it is found commonly in the sub-Himalayan tract from the Ravi River eastward, ascending 1,220 meters’ altitude.
The leaves of the tree are gland-dotted, ovate, sessile and crenulated with the terminal leaflet being usually the largest.
The calyx is small, glandular and four-lobed with ovate lobes. The petals are highly fragrant, white, long and elliptic.
- Season of ripeness at Riverside: From August to February
- Season of flowering at Riverside: From May to July
This is a small tree usually reaching a height of about 7.6 to 9.14 meters. The tree must be at least 35 years old for it to be considered mature enough for yielding a good-quality cutting.
Thanaka mainly grows on the dry hills or jungles.
The ground bark of the plant is used in the preparation of a powder mainly used for the cosmetic purposes.
Phytochemistry (Chemical Composition)
The maceration of Thanaka bark powder results in dichloromethane, hexane, methanol, ethyl acetate, ethanol and water extracts.
Benefits & Medicinal Uses
Thanaka, a small tree from Myanmar, has an important use in the daily Burmese life. The Burmese, especially women, apply a natural cosmetic paste prepared from this herb to their skin. This paste provides varying benefits that range from routine skin care to treating severe skin diseases. Here are the skin benefits of Thanaka.
Natural Sun Protection
Thanaka powder protects the skin from the harsh heat of the sun. This powder has been widely used as a natural sunscreen. It has been found to offer protection from the sun for long hours and in the worst weather conditions.
Thanaka protects the skin from sunburn and prevents dehydration due to excessive sweating. Covering the face with Thanaka powder is considered a safe, natural and efficient alternative to the commercially available sun-protection products.
Refines the pores
The skin is exposed to the dust and pollutants in the air, which reduce the glow on the face and make it look dull and lusterless. These dirt particles often get embedded in the pores of the skin, which can make them appear larger and therefore, more noticeable. Thanaka powder works as an effective deep cleanser and helps to remove the dirt accumulated on the skin thereby reducing the appearance of pores. It removes the harmful impurities from the face and contributes to a clean and clear complexion.
Provides a cooling & soothing effect
Thanaka powder provides a refreshing and soothing feeling for the skin after each application. It allows the skin to feel fresh, cool and clean by adding sufficient hydration. It helps rejuvenate the skin and stimulates the regeneration of the skin cells thereby delaying the signs of aging.
Thanaka powder helps the skin fight the free radicals in the body that are released during the natural processes in the body. These are atoms having an odd number of electrons. The free or unbound electrons can attack the normal cells of the body and cause substantial damage over a period of time. Thanaka powder, being a strong antioxidant, prevents the damage to the skin by attacking and eliminating these free radicals. It, thus, preserves the youthfulness of the skin and allows a person to look much younger than his or her actual age.
Thanaka powder balances the moisture level in the skin by controlling the production of an oily substance called sebum by the sebaceous glands situated beneath the skin. This process helps to prevent the outbreak of acne, blemishes and blackheads and reduces the appearance of skin imperfections like acne scars and dark spots. Thanaka also possesses anti-inflammatory property, which helps to protect the skin from the inflammatory response of the immune system to the allergens and environmental toxins. It also produces a strong antibacterial action and prevents skin infections that can cause diseases like pustules and abscesses.
Other Health benefits
Besides the skin benefits, Thanaka powder also helps in the prevention and treatment of some other diseases. It can be used for the treatment of stomach problems like gastritis and as a preventive measure for Malaria. It also has radioprotective properties, which help in lowering the side effects of radiotherapy in the cancer patients.
Thanaka powder is likely safe for external use. Oral consumption can cause some side effects, which likely to influence the digestive health.
Side Effects of Thanaka Powder
Though Thanaka is an excellent herb for topical use, its oral consumption in excessive amounts can lead to –
- Stomach upset
- Other digestive disorders
Allergic Reactions (Allergy)
People having a history of allergy to Thanaka powder should avoid using it. It may cause the symptoms of allergy like skin rash and itching.
Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
Pregnant women and lactating mothers should avoid the oral consumption of Thanaka as it may cause harmful effects on the baby.
- The use of this herb should be avoided by the people suffering from serious gastric disorders.
- Diabetic patients using a high dose of hypoglycemic medications should avoid the oral consumption of Thanaka as it may lower the blood sugar level.
- The oral consumption of Thanaka powder should be avoided by the people suffering from thyroid disorders.